Saturday, November 10, 2012: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
International B (Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel)
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Organizers: Robert Behn, Harvard University
Moderators: Tony Bovaird, University of Birmingham
Chairs: Beth Blauer, Office of the Governor of Maryland
The pressure for improved government performance continues. This is true for national, state and provincial, and municipal governments and for the nonprofit organizations that deliver public services. Yet how to improve performance is never easy. Indeed, it is never obvious. Thus jurisdictions and agencies have employed a variety of approaches: publishing performance measures; creating mechanisms for sharing effective strategies; establishing pay-for-performance systems; demanding accountability. Sometimes, in some circumstances, with some forms of leadership, these approaches have an impact. Sometimes this impact is significant; sometimes it is fleeting. Sometimes an approach creates an opportunity for learning that then suggests a modification. Sometimes a common label can be attached to superficially similar but fundamentally contradictory approaches, obscuring the potential for learning.
The moderator, authors, and discussant have all devoted significant attention to the challenge of improving performance in the delivery of public services. Each paper looks at a different performance-management challenge and seeks to understand the kind of impact an approaches has had (and could have) on the results produced by governments and their collaborators.
D. Smith and Tryens examine one of the Broadway’s longest running efforts at measuring and reporting a government’s total performance: The New York Mayor’s Management Report (which is, indeed, produced on lower Broadway). This 200+ page document contains data, tables, and charts on every city department. Yet how is this information used by city managers, by stakeholder organizations, and by citizens?
In California, a combination of a long-running financial crisis and some ill-advised performance initiatives have undermined significantly the capacity of public agencies to produce results. Thus, Musso and Weare examine how a group of the state’s top managers have sought to improve their own capacity and the capacity of their organizations. These managers have banded together to create their own, unofficial “Performance Management Council” which seeks to share strategies and learn from each other’s experiences.
S. Smith looks at a different set of organizations — the nonprofits that both deliver many governmental services, and represent citizen interests. As their funders demand more accountability for results — as exemplified by more requirements for output and outcome reporting — many nonprofits worry that their ability to advocate for under-represented citizens may be curtailed or compromised. Thus Smith examines the accountability conflict that these organizations face: accountability to their government funders vs. accountability to their communities.
Behn looks at a widely advocated tool for producing results: pay for performance. But, he suggests, this is not a single tool but a quite complex tool box, consisting of perhaps thousands of different varieties of tools. For in “pay for performance,” neither the kind of “pay” nor the kind of “performance” is narrowly delimited by a tight, universally accepted definition. Without a specific definition, the evidence is bound to be conflicting and controversial.